Sony Pictures Imageworks

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Sony Pictures Imageworks
Subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment
Industry CGI visual effects
Motion pictures
Founded 1992
Headquarters Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Number of locations
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Culver City, California, USA
Products visual effects
Owner Sony
Parent Sony Pictures Entertainment

Sony Pictures Imageworks, Inc. is a visual effects and character animation company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.[1] SPI is a unit of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group.[2][3]

The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars for their work on Spider-Man 2 and the computer-animated short film The ChubbChubbs!, and received many other nominations for their work.

SPI has provided visual effects for many films, most recent include Oz the Great and Powerful, The Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black 3. They also provided services for several of director Robert Zemeckis' films, including Contact, Cast Away, The Polar Express, Monster House and Beowulf.

Since foundation of its sister company Sony Pictures Animation in 2003, SPI has also animated all SPA's films, including Open Season, Surf's Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film series, and The Smurfs film series.


Sony Pictures Imageworks was formed in 1992 with five employees to use computers to help plan complicated scenes for live-action films.[4] Located in the former TriStar building, their first work was a previsualization for a 1993 film Striking Distance.[5]

Its first independent animated effort was the 5-minute short The ChubbChubbs! directed by Eric Armstrong. In 2002, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Early Bloomer, released in 2003, was the division's second short film and originally made as a storyboarding exercise.[6] SPI completed its first feature animation project in 2006 with the release of Open Season.

In 2007, SPI acquired the majority of the shares of FrameFlow, an Indian visual effects studio based in Atlanta with most of its work being done at its Chennai (Madras) centre.[7] The company was renamed to Imageworks India, and opened next year a state-of-the-art facility in Chennai.[8] Since 2007, SPI maintained for a short time a development unit in Novato, California.[9][10] Between 2007 and 2012, it had a satellite production facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico,[11] which was closed down due to economic crisis and lack of alternative companies where employees would go in time of production gaps.[12] As part of Sony's cost-saving efforts, the Indian studio closed down in March 2014, laying off around 100 employees.[13]


During 2009-2010 SPI made transition from traditional biased, multi-pass rendering system to a largely singlepass, global illumination system incorporating modern ray-tracing and physically based shading techniques. They have achieved that with Arnold Renderer, an unbiased stochastic ray tracer. Arnold, started in 1997 by Marcos Fajardo, was co-developed between 2004 and 2009 with SPI, where Marcos was employed, and is now maintained by Marcos' Madrid based company Solid Angle SL. Arnold was used on projects such as Monster House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 2012, Alice in Wonderland, The Smurfs, Arthur Christmas and is being used on all upcoming SPI's films.[14]


Sony Pictures Imageworks has provided visual effects and digital animation for the following films:[15]


  1. ^ Bruce Constantineau (May 28, 2014). "Sony Pictures Imageworks to move head office to Vancouver". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Sony Pictures - Divisions". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Sony Pictures Imageworks". 
  4. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (October 31, 2007). "Sony Said to Be Pondering Partial Sale of Movie Units". The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2014. 
  5. ^ Failes, Ian (August 30, 2012). "From Speed to Spidey: 20 years of VFX and animation". FX Guide. Retrieved September 12, 2014. 
  6. ^ Tito A. Belgrave (September 8, 2003). "Making Waves with Early Bloomer". Retrieved November 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Sony Pictures picks up 51% in FrameFlow" (Press release). FrameFlow via The Economic Times. February 20, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ IANS (April 11, 2008). "Sony Imageworks opens visual effects studio in Chennai". Retrieved July 9, 2011. 
  9. ^ Stevens, Loralee (January 29, 2007). "Sony gets toehold in North Bay". Barker Pacific Group, Inc. Retrieved November 27, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Less Free Money In New Mexico?". VFX Soldier. January 1, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2014. However, ImageMovers and Imageworks Novato facility closed 
  11. ^ "Albuquerque Studios Sees Special Effects of SONY Imageworks Deal in New Mexico" (Press release). Albuquerque Studios via PRWeb. May 20, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
  12. ^ Kamercik, Megan (February 29, 2012). "Sony Pictures Imageworks to leave New Mexico". New Mexico Business Weekly. Retrieved March 1, 2012. 
  13. ^ S. Cohen, David (January 29, 2014). "Sony Imageworks India to Shut Down (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  14. ^ Haines, Eric (July 20, 2010). "Marcos and Arnold". Ray Tracing News. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  15. ^ "All Shows". Sony Pictures Imageworks. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 

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